It was in a world extremely familiar with Sario. I was an orphan of not even 12 years old when my master took me from a raided village. He was a mercenary and him together with his troops just raided a village of the enemy kingdom in times of war. For some reason or another, he took me in; at first as his slave, then as his disciple. He was extremely severe but he taught me everything he knew. In the end, he became a commander at the regal court while I was his helper. We fought in wars together, going through numerous defeats and victories. His affection only grew for me and I started to see him as my own father. One time after training together, we sat down at a bench and started talking merely.
“Little Dog, you’re no-longer a snotty brat unable of fighting. You’ve gone through wars and you can almost beat me now. I have no more to teach you.”
He said while ruffling my curly and brown hair.
“Argh! Stop doing this, damn it! I’m not a brat anymore, ye?!… And what do you mean ‘no more’? I still can’t beat you.”
“Damn brat! So you do wish to kill me!”
“I said I have no hate for you after raiding my village when I was just an orphan! For f*ck’s sake, drop the paranoia, old man!”
He caught my head and ruffled my head even more while laughing loudly. He had an undulating long black hair with a black beard and mustache. He looked like your average homeless from a first glance. However, his black armor was shining with a white luster, while his long and sturdy sword gave a sharp feeling from the skillfully molded edge.
“Anyway. Brat, now is the time for you to get a rank inside the royal army. You have more skill than most of the other commanders. Hell, even some generals can’t hold a candle in front of you now!”
“Oh, yea? Then how come you haven’t got the title of General yet?”
“I have something else to do… I can’t waste time listening to the king’s orders.”
“Then why the hell should I do it?!”
“Brat, just listen to your master’s one last wish. Go out there alone, make a name for yourself and reach the highest ranks possible. Understood? Be sure that at the end to also-“
“Yeah yeah… Follow your law.”
“… Brat, you still didn’t understand what Law I’m talking about, right?”
“The kingdom’s laws, no?”
“… Sigh~ I can see you’re still hopeless. See? That’s why I told you to make some friends or get a wife. Why must you be so against it?”
“Da hell was that?! Why would I need friends when all I need to do is train my sword mastery? And wife? You were the one that told me how nagging a wife can be sometimes! Why the Hell would I think of having such a torture machine beside me?!”
“Hahaha~! You really can’t read through the lines, brat! You’ll learn with time then. I’ll be sure to teach you the rest when we’ll meet next time. Oh, and also, Little Dog. When we met again and if you’re still alone, or have no one to talk with; I will be sure to have a free seat for you right beside me, like a true brother in arms, on a bench just like this one.”
“… What the hell, old man.”
I felt a little bit conflicted by his deep words, unable to understand them at that time.
After that one talk, I did exactly as he told me. I enrolled in the royal army after my master’s group of mercenaries disbanded completely and suddenly, leaving me all alone. I climbed up in the ranks using only my own powers and after six years, I reached the rank of General at the age of 25. In these six years, I heard no word about my master. I thought maybe he left the kingdom or maybe he just died, so I tried my best not to think about him too much.
However, when the kingdom was in an economic crisis, a rebellion sent its troops in a frontal attack while using the stolen flying-warships, right inside the capital. I was sent out together with five flying warships against an army with twelve flying warships. We were completely outnumbered but I never saw numbers as something to be afraid of or use as an excuse.
“Just like last time! Get above them, jump on their ships and destroy the engines together with the bombardiers! Come on! We didn’t train only so a little difference like this to take us down, aren’t we the Mad Dogs here!? Let’s wreck them up!”
The mighty warriors I choose by myself roared together and in high spirit, we landed atop ship after ship, bringing them down without many troubles. But, things wouldn’t go as we wished forever.
I looked with a shocked face at the ones inside the commanding ship after destroying almost all of them, the rest still being attacked by my other companions. They were my former brothers in arms with which I fought wars after wars under my master.
“… Little Dog… You grew up… Shall we now call you by your given name, Leo?”
They looked at me with grave faces and commented with a slight, melancholic smile.
“W-why… Why are you betraying the kingdom?”
None of them answered, shaking their heads while gazing at me again with sharp eyes.
“Answer me! You bastards!”
I felt my heart break seeing them remain mute while raising their swords, ready for combat.
“G-general. Attack now?”
One of my men asked unsure after seeing me freeze in place.
I didn’t know what to do or say. I felt sorrowful and angered at their silence. My mind was in turmoil while my spirit dropped from the sudden betrayal. I didn’t wish to fight against the ones I thought as family. The command to strike was jumping on my tongue, not wishing to get out. Until-
“Captain, watch out!”
Suddenly one of my men pushed me away and a sword went through his chest, penetrating his heart and killing him instantly.
I looked at the one who killed my companion and saw he was another one from my master’s group.
“G-general! Your orders!?”
The men started to feel pressured, seeing how I almost lost my neck to a sneak attack.
“Order…?… Ah, yes…”
My mind darkened, then incredible rage ignited in my heart. I looked at the enemy in front with bloodshot eyes and raised my sword while emanating thick killing intent.
“KILL THE TRAITORS! Eliminate them all!”
My shout was loud enough to be heard even from the other ships.
We then started a bloody fight that washed the decks with blood and gore. Every man I cut made me feel like I was cutting my own heart. Every single one of them was a brother which I risked my life in numerous fights together, giving our all to protect each other. People which I partied, I drank, I crossed arms and told adventurous stories to the children, such people were now falling one after the other by my sword in a river of blood.
“General, there is one more inside the commander’s room!”
With cold eyes, I stepped inside and saw a familiar silhouette. My arms trembled while my neck hurt. My eyes reddened, almost crying and a sour smell appeared in my nose.
“Little Dog… You really grew now.”
My master turned around, looking unchanged with the same homeless-like appearance and the same black armor and the sharp sword. A mild and somehow aged smile appeared on his face as he stared at me like an old, tired man.
“…You… Why did you betray us? Didn’t you told me to follow the law?”
“… It seems you still couldn’t find your law, Little Dog.”
“Stop with the deep talk, you f*****! Spit the truth, why you betrayed us?!”
“Sigh~… Come, Little Dog. Let this foolish master see how much you’ve grown.”
I roared in anger and shot out with my sword at his neck. He drew his sword from his back and fought back, cutting and destroying the commanding room. We fought while the other warriors already left the ship, which was slowly collapsing toward the courtyard of the royal palace.
“General! We must evacuate now!”
“GO! I still have to deal with this rebel!”
The others left with a flying boat while I remained and continued to fight with my master. Suddenly, mster kicked me away and redirected the ship toward the Palace’s walls. The crash destroyed the walls and even a part of the defensive tower. He then ran through the broken wall, searching for the king with the intent to kill.
“F*cking Hell! Wait right there!”
I gave chase and caught him in a dead-end. In front, there were only two rooms for the royal servants which now were empty.
“Heh, since you left, there have been made some changes inside the palace. Now tell me, why have you betrayed the kingdom?!”
“… Little Dog, do you like how this kingdom is ruled?”
Master asked me with a firm and a sad face.
“Huh? What does that have to do with me?! You told me to become a general, you told me to follow the laws, now you ask me if I like it or not?! What kinda bull-crap do you wish from me, you old-fart?!”
I shouted exasperated while feeling like grasping at my hair.
“…I’m sorry Little Dog. I haven’t been a good master to you… I taught you the way of the sword… but not the way of the heart.”
He then slowly walked toward me and prepared for round two.
“Come, let master see if you slacked off.”
“You and your crap again… You’re dead!”
I struck with my sword and fought with him while none of us had any kind of advantage. The walls were filled with deep cuts, while some of them broke down completely, crumbling into rubles. The fight turned more and more heated, blood started to drop here and there, painting the walls and the floor as numerous cuts covered both of us from head to toe.
While fighting, we shouted at each other, or better said, I was shouting and raging, while he was simply answering with guilt and sadness.
“Why-why-why!? You bastard! Answer now! Why did you betray the kingdom?!”
“I’m sorry Little Dog, I was just following my laws.”
“You mean the enemy’s kingdom’s orders?! And I’m asking why!”
“Not the kingdom’s law. But my own law. Little Dog. Do you still have nothing you wish to protect?”
“What s*** are you spouting now?! Protect what? The kingdom? Isn’t this what I’m doing right now?!”
“Do you love the kingdom that much…?”
“Bastard! I do it because that’s the law of us generals, the orders, isn’t it? To fight for the king, no?!”
“Oh, you’re so mistaken…”
“THEN F****** TELL ME!”
Because I was too heated up, my thought of just defeating him turned into a wish to kill. All my strikes became fiercer and more powerful, being filled with bloodlust. In the end, I broke his sword in two and stabbed him through the chest.
My master spat out a mouthful of blood then fell on one knee.
“Huff, huff, huff…! Ah…”
I then regained consciousness from the frenzied state and looked at my master, my sword still inside his chest.
“Huff, huff, huff! Aaargh!”
I pushed him on his back and stabbed my sword on the ground. I looked at his bloody appearance with tears falling down my cheeks. My chest felt like bursting while my neck was hurting so bad, I wasn’t even able to swallow.
“You… really grew…”
“Now will you answer me? Whose orders are you following?”
I asked with cold and soulless eyes.
“Hehe Cough!… No… my law is not based on someone’s orders… My law comes from the wish… inside my heart…”
“I’m sorry, little dog… But one’s Law is one’s wish… to listen to his own heart’s screams… And so… my heart was crying… for the ones… persecuted… by this corrupted kingdom… I had to… help them.”
“I-I don’t get it! Help? How would that help you?! Why would you even help anyone?! What the f*ck are you talking about when you wouldn’t even win something from this…?”
His breath became weaker and weaker, while the strong and unwilling shine in his eyes dimmed almost completely. I felt like his time was already coming. And the thought of me being the killer made me lose my mind.
“I’m sorry… I wasn’t able to teach ye… that helping… is not equal to gaining… one must do what he wants, so his death won’t be meaningless… for this is the law… of the heart…”
“W-what are you-“
“Cough!… search within… and ask to yourself. The answers will come… in the form of feelings… the Heart’s Law…are your feelings… exactly what… you should… follow…”
“My… law…? Master, how can I…?”
“Haha… ‘Master’… you finally called me that…Leo…”
He smiled brightly then stopped moving completely. His hand let go of his sword while his heartbeat stopped completely.
I finally understood that he actually died. His face calm, with a wide smile on.
“My heart’s law… What does it say now?… It says… I was wrong…”
I cried. I cried in silence on my own, while my sword was still stuck in the ground, stabbing through his cold corpse. Suddenly, a whisper resounded in my head like a long lost memory, and at the same time like a wind blowing beside my ear:
[I’m sorry, Little Dog. But please don’t forget that, if you ever need someone to talk with… There will always be a seat beside me… on a bench, just like this one…]
I suddenly opened my eyes wide while shouting in pain and sorrow. Blood with tears ran down my cheeks while my chest felt like bursting from the guilt and sorrows I felt.
[[[POV CHANGES TO SHEN]]]
“Sh-..en…. You’re… Finally awake…” → Yuri
I heard a weak and hushed voice beside my ear and found myself with someone’s head resting on my shoulder. It was Yuri, and his right thumb was strongly pressing on my forehead, cleaning the darkness inside my mind.
“Yuri…? Huh? Why are you-“ → Shen
Before I could continue talking, I felt my right arm soaked. I tried to look at it but saw something moving behind Yuri. It was exactly my arm, which was going through his back, painted in his blood. I froze at that exact moment. A feeling as if my judgment would collapse at any moment now washed over me.
“Ah…” → Shen
The smell of blood made me sick in the stomach while my right arm went numb from the shock. I felt like I’d rather cut it than have it anymore, this cursed arm, which also took the life of my master and brothers-in-arms from the other life, now took the life of my master’s reincarnation while I was asleep under the devil’s might.
‘Despair’ was the best word to describe how I felt at that moment. The snow which slowly started to fall turned red right at the moment it touched the ground. It was a calm and beautiful view with a deadly feeling of sadness and guilt.
“Shen, you’re finally awake… haha~…” → Yuri
He repeated again with a happy tone, then laughed in a weakened voice.
“Ah, no…” → Shen
I wasn’t able to talk for a moment. My neck was tightened from the pain I felt inside my heart, while my body was trembling from the shock.
“No… No no no no! OY! Hold up! Stay with me! I’ll do all I can to fix you up right now!” → Shen
My mental power was completely depleted, my meridians were almost dry of mana and chi, and even the Prana coming from the Universe circulated with incredible difficulty, barely healing some light wounds on my body.
Even so, I still activated the Advanced Healing from [Healing Palms].
[Error! MP: 0 The activation of spells will now deplete HP. Do you accept?]
Another announcement by the system appeared and I simply pushed the [Yes] button without thinking for another moment.
From the 123.000, it was before, it dropped to 65.000 in a matter of seconds. While fighting with Yuri, all his strikes actually affected only the devil, letting my body intact. However, the speed at which my life depleted was incomparable with the speed my healing had. The HP would grow 100 HP every five seconds because of the thin Prana which still circulated, but it was still too slow for what I needed.
“Gah!” → Shen
I felt horrible. My health dropped instantly and my head started to hurt while my stomach revolted. I had a feeling as if I had a fever and nausea at the same time.
More… I need more! Or he’ll really die! → Shen
I used more and more healing power on him, closing up the injury and trying to rebuild the destroyed lung and bones.
“Sir Shen…” → Yuri
Yuri tried to talk while a wide smile appeared on his face.
“I… saw your vision… So… In another life… I was your master, huh… Cough!” → Yuri
He spat out another mouthful of blood and frowned in pain. Because of the [God’s Gaze], he was able to see not only my vision and memories but also my internal confrontation with the darkness, understanding instantly through what I had to go through these last weeks.
“Don’t talk! Stop wasting energy on talking!” → Shen
“Hehe~… Hey Shen… If… we survive… Let’s be friends…” → Yuri
“Whatever you want! Just stop talking!” → Shen
“Haha~…than..ks…” → Yuri
He smiled again then suddenly lost consciousness.
“Yuri-! Cough!” → Shen
I panicked and shouted his name. From the emotional shock, my already fragile circulation perturbed even more and an internal injury opened inside my lungs, making me cough blood.
My view darkened while my mind spun, but I continued to give my vitality to Yuri for at least one more second. The blood flowed out from inside him while the dark energy negated my healing powers to some aspects.
F*** f*** f***! That cursed Devil! I’ll cut him to shreds! → Shen
“Mi’lord! We’re here to help!” → Auraa
The fairy Aura appeared beside me together with another group of people. They all were from the Antara Kingdom and focused mostly on healing.
“F-fast! Heal him…! Or… He’ll-…” → Shen
“My lord!” → Aura
Before I could finish my words, my mind blanked and I collapsed on the ground. A sinister voice then resounded in my ear right before I could lose consciousness:
[I will let myself be dragged down for nothing! You are coming with me!]